The shattering double vision of V. S. Naipaul

Over the years, I've always come back to a picture: a young writer, a 26-year-old Indian, sitting at a desk in a small apartment in Streatham Hill, a modest area of ​​South London. It's 1958 and he's working on a long book that will eventually become one of the great novels of the twentieth century. The young writer is unimaginably self-assured and unimaginably vulnerable: in some ways privileged (he went to Oxford, and he knows he is more talented than his literary colleagues), completely powerless in others (he is an Indian working in the old, contemptuous way ) Imperial Metropolis, but he does not even come from India – he grew up in Trinidad, where his grandfather was brought as a temporary worker to the sugar cane plantation. This is the first extraordinary fact about "A House for Mr. Biswas," The masterpiece of VS Naipaul, who died on Saturday at age eighty-five. This book, full of comedy and pathos, eerie wisdom and painful compassion containing both a human motive and a dynamic of society that most writers could reach for a lifetime, was written by a man in their mid to late twenties. (The only comparable achievement is "Buddenbrooks", published as Thomas Mann was twenty-six years old; Cervantes was probably around fifty-five when the first installment of "Don Quixote" appeared.) The compassion of the young Vidia Naipaul – a quality that seems to have dried up, As he grew older, his father's life, Seepersad Naipaul, became the model for Mohun Biswas. Seepersad, like Mr. Biswas, lived a short life (he died at the age of forty-six), that was an amazing feat and a relative failure, and it is this stereoscopic vision that gives "The House for Mr. Biswas" shattering power. The achievement was to rise from very modest origins in a tiny society of extremely limited opportunity, to become a writer or a kind of writer: Mr Biswas, like Seepersad Naipaul, became a journalist for the Guardian of Trinidad. But in the larger frame of things, Mr. Biswas's life amounted to little: the Trinidad Guardian was just a local island paper (Seepersad Naipaul complained to his son about the boring unimportance of most of his orders); and though Seepersad, like Mr. Biswas, lived vicariously by his wise children, won the scholarships and left the island to study in England, he never went away himself. He ended his brief, circumscribed life in a small house in Port of Spain that would look like a hut to many people – "a box," writes Naipaul's biographer Patrick French. "A hot, shaky, detached building at the end of the street, about 7 square meters on two floors with an outside wooden staircase and a corrugated iron roof." Seven square meters are about seventy-five square meters; Here, the future Nobel Prize winner spent his childhood. Back to the image of the young man in south London. He fictionally tries to tell the serio-oecomic story of his father's life – the obstacles, the small triumphs, the confusing and humiliating episodes, the greater achievement. In the gray London he writes a gentle homage to the Trinidad of his childhood, to the island's smells and sounds, to all the hot textures, to poverty and ambition, to boastfulness and to the smallness. He tries to make a dispassionate assessment of the value and validity of his father's life in a fictional way. (Seepersad died while Vidia Naipaul was in Oxford.) But the author working on this report is from both the island and not the island. Unlike his father, he escaped – all the way to Oxford – and he knows he will never return to Trinidad again. How can the assessment he made in "A House for Mr. Biswas" not reflect the contradictions that have determined (and in some way plagued) Naipaul's entire life? If the snobbish and racist English students at Oxford Seepersad Naipaul were sick of their nose (if they even noticed it), the young Vidia Naipaul was inclined to agree: From Sewardsad or London, Seepersad's performance was not only low, but perhaps laughable or humiliating. But as soon as the young Vidia retired to Trinidad, returning to his father's shoes – the imaginative work the novelist does – how could he not passionately defend the performance of his father's life, a life all the greater than that of the Snobbish Oxonian, because she was made so little? This double vision, moving between the colonial edge and the colonial center, between empathy and shame, pride and humiliation, brings Naipaul's portrait of Mohun Biswas an extraordinary ironic power. The young man in South London wrote about his island, but in some ways he did not write for his island; he wrote to be read by his colleagues in Oxford and London. "A house for Mr. Biswas," as well as much in Naipaul's work, examines this terrible division, but also this one. Much of Naipaul's work is the exposure of a wound by a man who, confusedly, seemed to enjoy or could not prevent inflicting more wounds on the wounded. This disunity, wounding and wounding made the man a monster, but fed his work. That's why he is a writer with a conservative vision and radical eyesight. (And that's why "A House for Mr. Biswas," along with Frantz Fanon's declared radical, "The Miserable Earth," also published in 1961, can be read without a sharp sense of disjunction.) Because Mr. Biswas is a writer of Naipaul's novel inevitably a novel about obtaining his own writings, about the struggle to find the words – a struggle that was transferred from the father to a more talented son. (Seepersad Naipaul confirmed that his son, at the age of twenty, was a better writer than him, in his forties.) There's a nice moment, late in "A House for Mr. Biswas," when the writing opens and briefly touches the Pain (and consolation) of such contradictions. The Biswas finally settled on Mr. Biswa's resting place, the little house on Sikkim Street. One of Mr Biswas sons Anand (the Vidia character) has been awarded a scholarship to study abroad. Naipaul writes that the children of Biswas will soon begin to forget some of their childhood experiences; other memories will be confused, an amnesia exaggerated by life abroad. The writer, who would attack Proust at an old age, encounters a great Proust's complaint: Occasionally a nerve of memory would be touched – a puddle that reflects
the blue sky after the rain, a pack of worn cards, fumbling with one
Shoelaces, the smell of a new car, the sound of a stiff wind
Trees, the smells and colors of a toy store, the taste of milk and
Prunes – and a fragment of forgotten experience would be supplanted,
Www.mjfriendship.de/de/index.php?op…=view&id=167 Certainly this is the young writer in London who describes his own memories, his own tripping, a suspicion that is reinforced by Naipaul 's continuation : In a northern country, in a time of new divisions and longings, in one
The library suddenly grew dark, the hailstones beating the
Window, would be the marbled header paper of a dusty leather-bound book
bother: and it would be the hot, loud week before Christmas in the
Tulsi Store: the marbled pattern of old-fashioned balloons that were pulverized
with a rubbery dust in a flat white box that should not be touched.
So later, and very slowly, in safer times of different pressures,
when the memories had lost the power to hurt with pain or pleasure
would join in and give the rest back. Finally, Naipaul writes about Anand Biswas. Actually, he writes about himself – Vidia in Oxford ("in a suddenly grown library") and then in London ("in safer times of different burdens"). He writes about the young man in South London, for whom memories of Trinidad are painful and joyful, and how writing his epic poem is at the same time exposing and healing a wound ("when the memories had lost the power") , How cool and classic Naipaul relates to his own great achievement: "They would line up and give the rest back." Now he's gone, but his book keeps giving us the rest.

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